My parents made it back from Lebanon. My first relief was that I could talk to them face to face and take a break from having my cell phone stuck to my ear. I am so happy they are here, and spent the weekend repeating that over and over again.

I discovered why they sounded really down the day they decided to leave. From a map on this excellent blog I saw that their village was bombed. I had no idea how close, but from the lonely blue circle in the center of the map I knew it had just happened that day.

by mazen kerbaj

One of my first comments when they arrived was "your village got bombed, didn't it?" They were totally shocked that I found out. Turns out the bomb* landed a kilometer away from their house, at 5am. They slept through it, but their maid on the upper level felt the whole house shake. It was that bomb, and all my persistent phone calls, that pushed them to leave.

My grandmother, uncle, aunt, and their families all made it back to Houston. My aunt and her son made cover page news in Beaumont, TX. I would tell you about my brother's escape to Jordan, but a cousin was with him on the journey and wrote an article about it here.

I can't believe this madness has already been going on for 20 days.

Please, someone, make it stop.

*The bomb that landed a kilometer away from out house hit a bunch of sheep.


Illustration Friday: Opposites

With the news that my parents are finally leaving Beirut, last night I sat down and drew. I was so excited to hear they were going to leave. In fact, thrilled. But both of them at the other end of the line didn't sound happy at all. In fact, for the first time in the past 2 weeks, they sounded really really down. They're worried about where they'll be taken, how they'll be treated, how long it will take, and all the uncertainties that surround leaving their country as refugees.

I stayed up and called them at 8.30am their time to see if they made it down to Beirut safely. check. I woke up early and called them at 1pm to see if they were on the ship. Nope, not yet. They were "checked in" and their bus was being held for 3 hours, so when I called they were sitting, waiting. I have spent so much time with the cell phone glued to my ear that I am 46 minutes away from my limit this month.

The trip to wait in Cyprus is going to be at least 24 hours. The irony is that they will be boarding the same cruise ship they took last year on their tour of the mediterranean.

My parents really would not be leaving if it were up to them. Every year they spend the spring & summer there, and their fall & winter here, and this whole war and evacuation just didn't fit into their plans. The good news is my father completed some crazy root canal work on Monday, his foot is feeling better, and my mom had time to get her hair done. SA says she's going to be the prettiest refugee!

Previous Illustration Friday entries ::
jungle : jungle : portrait : cake : sorry : angels and devils : fat : under the sea : robot : spotted robot : speed : spring again : more spring : spring : monster : tattoo [one page tale painted gocco print] : tattoo : insect : tea : song : simple : chair : glamour [color gocco print] : glamour : cats : e is for : sea : flavor : holiday : imagine


*fingers crossed*

First of all, thanks so much for all the comments, phone calls, e.mails, thoughts, prayers, and good vibes being sent out... most of my family are either currently in transit, on their way back here, or about to embark on the journey.

I am thrilled that my parents are planning to leave Lebanon tomorrow. They are not as excited as I am. In fact, they sounded really down when I spoke with them this afternoon about it. If my brother and I weren't calling every hour to ask "are you gone yet?" they would stay there. I'm very tempted to pick up the phone now to see whats happening. 7am. Its already tomorrow there. The sun has already risen and they're probably getting ready to lock up their house, say goodbye to the mountains, and drive down to Beirut. Normally there would be a whole entourage of 3/4 cars taking them down to the airport, but this time they'll be going down alone. Its really not safe for anyone to drive around. I must sleep with my fingers crossed and send them good wishes of a safe trip down and through Beirut.

Turns out someone there knew someone here who talked to someone there who helped my grandmother, uncle, aunt and their families all board a ship safely on Saturday morning. My grandmother was very sad to leave, but I'm so glad she agreed to it. They received a call at midnight to say they had to be at the ship by 3am. I thought they were in Cyprus, but just found out today they are actually in Turkey waiting for a flight out, and might be there for another three days. My brother and his wife are in Jordan. I got a text message from them about how awesome the dead sea is. Hopefully they will arrive here in the next few days.

My parents are coordinating with the same person there that knew someone here who talked to someone there who helped my relatives board the ship on Saturday, so I'm hoping my parents will have an ok experience with leaving and all. Part of me feels bad that I've called everyday and put so much pressure on them to get back over here, and another part of me is relieved they've made the decision to get out. I understand that where they live now in the mountains is safe, but really no place there is safe, and we are all worried sick about what is going to happen when the bombing stops. 1,000,000 people displaced. I really hope this will not spur another civil war. I really hope all my friends and families and friends families stay safe over there.

Phew, my posts sure have gotten blabby! Alright, next post will be something creative. and fewer words. promise.


pardon me while i vent...

I've spoken with my parents every single day since the craziness started. My brother made it to Jordan this morning. The driver came from Jordan to pick him up. On his way over he drove around a busload of people that had got bombed as they were driving towards the Syrian border. No survivors. A HUGE bridge on the beirut-damascus highway not far from where my parents are staying in the mountians got bombed again, this time in half. This bridge runs over the road my parents take from the Chouf to get to my grandmother's village in the Metn. Of course they're not getting any sleep. They woke up to the sound of the bridge exploding. My mom was terrified to say bye to my brother, and my brother didn't want to leave them behind.

My parents hope to leave soon but they're waiting to leave with my grandmother and the rest of my moms family. My grandmother is 85 and was hoping to die in Lebanon and never travel again (she used to live in houston). So, her american passport had expired. My uncle took her to the american embassy and they were treated like animals. They refused to even give her an emergency passport so she can at least cross over to Syria or go to Cyprus to get it renewed there. Does anyone here have any state department leads here that we can follow? My family really can't leave her there on her own! She can barely walk!

Also, other extended family members made it onto the ships, only to be told moments later that it was full, and to get off and "come back again tomorrow."

I should add that my family does not live there, but they spend all their vacations there. My parents usually go there in the Spring and leave after the fig season is over. I really hope they make it here sooner, and of course I hope the bombing ends.

A generator fell on my dads foot and aparently that is why they haven't already left, still hopping around from doctor to doctor. This happened a few days ago, but I just got told today. They don't tell me everything. I'm glad they're all still alive, all limbs intact, but I feel terrible that everyone is going through this. It really is such a tragedy.

Here are some blogs I've been reading that have kept me sane: kerblog by mazen kerbaj and beirut update by zena. I really wish both of these artists had started blogs before this war, and in fact I had just talked to zena about this a few weeks ago while I was there and all was peaceful.

thats all for now.

Photos :: Tyre :: Sarafand

Along the coast, south of Sidon, we found Tyre. Tyre was a major Phoenician seaport from about 2000 BC through the Roman period. It was once an island and according to Herodotus, was founded about 2700 BC. Yes, thats BC, crazy long time ago. Purple dye was invented in Tyre.

The Roman hippodrome is one of the largest ever found. amazing. It was once used for chariot racing and could seat 20,000. Sitting up high on the stands, you can imagine what it must have been like when there were people all around. The light coming in under the stands, looking through the arches into the stadium, reminded me of movies like The Gladiator, and what it was like just before they enter the arena to face thousands of people.

Next we found the area of the port ruins, which was once a Phoenician island. What I find interesting is the two overlapping floor are from different civilisations: Byzantine mosaics laid over the Roman mosaic floor.

We were a day late to see the glassblowers in Sarafand, the site of ancient Serepta, where Phoenecians blew glass thousands of years ago. They shut down their glass furnace for the first time in many many years. Soon they'll be opening up a new shop in Zouk in the north, and then the Sarafand location will be working again soon, if it still exists.

All these images are from areas that have been the hardest hit in the past 10 days. so. sad.


who's a crafty bastard?

I am! Mark your calendars for Sunday, October 1st. Yay! For more info, check out the Crafty Bastards web site!


Sidon :: Sea Castle :: Soap Museum

This tiny painting of the Sidon skyline was done 16 years ago from a photo. At the time I was in high school in Dubai and had yet to visit Lebanon. But I dreamt about it from the pages of a large book that featured photos of the country from the 1970s. Problem was, the book was all in arabic so I had no idea what most of the pictures were about.

Last week when I visited Sidon I discovered where the photo was taken from: inside the Sea Castle looking towards the port! So of course I had to take a photo of the view for myself.

Sidon was fascinating. After the Sea Castle, we drifted through the most mesmerising souks. As SA said, we were all so blown away by the souks that none of us took any pictures. It was like we were in a maze and there was too much eye candy all at the same time. We stopped by Khan al Franj (the French Quarters), then went on the Soap Museum. What a treasure. I'm so amazed I had never heard of this place before!

This was my first trip to the South of Lebanon with SA. We went all the way down to Tyre. Every other time we've visited it didn't seem like a smart thing to do. Of course the fabulous new beach clubs are south of Beirut, around Damour and Jiyyeh, and we went there, but never as far as Sidon or Tyre. This was the first time I could say to family and friends "we're going to the South" and their response was positive. Some people I met even thought it would be cool to go all the way to the border. I didn't think that was such a great idea.

Well, looks like we made it down there at the right time, because if we were there this week, we would have missed out on some awesome places.


My brother's plane landed in Beirut today at 4.15am. At 6.05am the airport runways were bombed and the flights were all diverted to Larnaca in Cyprus. My parents heard the bombing while they drank their morning coffee from their balcony.

I spoke with my family and everyone is safe. My brother and his wife just returned from their honeymoon in Italy. I'm supposed to pick them up from the airport here on Monday night, but we'll see if they can make it out from Beirut that soon.


My Art Lounge Exhibit.

Here are some pictures from my Art Lounge exhibit in Beirut! The exhibit was part of the Imagining Ourselves Project, co-sponsored by the International Museum of Women, San Francisco, and featured the work of many talented lebanese women. An exhibit book was published and featured the work of all of us!

The exhibit space is also a huge lounge with a bar and an awesome bookshop, plus the hours are great: 7pm-close, Tuesday-Sunday. The exhibit was scheduled to end June 24th but it was extended till July 9. So yes, I visited it many times.

I decided to keep some of my artwork there to be placed in another exhibit in Beirut. Of course I am working on a new series to show here in the US. If you are interested in a commissioned painting in this series, please let me know by e.mail. [sometimes its hard to get in touch with you through the comments!] My e.mail is: darnknit at gmail dot com

Here are some images from other arts venues in Beirut: Espace SD, a gallery in Saifi Village, and the staircase art exhibit in the fabulous Gemmayzeh.

:: knit signing.
:: some more connections.
:: open studio fun.
:: about connectedness.
:: knitting dreams.
:: kite watcher.
:: imagining ouselves.


Photos :: Knitting :: Down the Mountain

I did all the driving and all the talking in Lebanon, so there weren't many chances to knit or paint besides the plane trip. But it was fun playing tour giude to a car full of friends, including two who had never been there before.

At historic sites, one of the hardest tasks I had was convincing ticket sellers that we were all Lebanese. Foreign tickets are about twice the local price. With a little chit-chat I managed to get local tickets for all of us even though one friend was from Cambodia, another from Sri Lanka, and SA's last name is Hennessey, so you can guess where his ancestry is from.

Even when my arabic was at its best after living there for seven years, people still said I spoke armani. Technically, that means I speak lebanese arabic like the Armenians do. I'm fluent conversationally, but don't ask me to discuss politics or the news, cause thats a whole other language.

Yes, this is the new Clapotis I started on the way there! I knit for hours and hours straight because I couldn't wait till it was time to take out a stitch marker and watch the stitches drop. Since I'm working with a mohair/silk blend, it takes a little fiddling to get the stithes to drop, but its so oh much fun! On the plane ride home I managed to drop four more lines. I also started a few other knitting projects, but don't have any pictures to show, so they'll be in another post!

On our way down from Mir Amin in the Chouf mountains, we stopped by the most tourist-trappy site ever: Moussa Castle. Hydraulic figures, hand carved stones, and oh so cheesy. Extra cheese ponts go to the camel rides outside. The only other camel in the whole country gives camel rides in Baalbeck. There are no deserts there!

Interestingly enough, I found a knitter in the Moussa Castle! See her in the picture on the top left? The image in the middle shows kids looking into a [translated from arabic] trunk of wonders. On the right is one of the best coffee pots I've ever seen!

The silhouette made me smile because it reminded me of artwork on these two blogs. It took me a few tries to guess what the woman was doing: applying lipstick!

Our last stop was a village named Deir el Qamar, which I just found out was the capitol of Lebanon in 1518.

We made it down to Beirut before dark, then in the late evening headed downtown to Buddha Bar. What an awesome place!

Still to come :: Soap museum in Sidon, Hippodrome in Tyre, my art exhibit in Beirut, Crusader's Castle in Tripoli, and if you can't wait, check out the images SA posted by clicking here.

ps...dear friends, I hope this makes up for all the trips I've taken and all the photos you've never seen.


Photos :: Centre Ville :: Downtown Beirut

The pedestrian streets of the recently reconstructed Downtown Beirut are covered with outdoor cafes. At night these rows of cafes are packed with people watching people watch the World Cup on huge screens. As soon as a match ends, fireworks go off all around the city, while masses of cars and scooters fly around making as much noise as they possibly can. Last week after Germany won, the seaside road by the manara was shut down as people marched all over with flags.

Everyone goes crazy over the World Cup, and its really addictive! Now that I'm back in DC I'm looking forward to going out tomorrow to watch the final match on a big screen. Who am I with? I'll have to say Italy, even though the French have been playing really really well.

This area has been destroyed many times over by earthquakes, tidal waves, fires and wars. Beneath the level we walk on lies Ottoman, Mamluke, Crusader, Abbassid, Omayyad, Byzantine, Roman, Persian, Phoenician and Canaanite Beirut. Most recently the whole area was destroyed by war, and in some areas the underground ruins have been exposed.

Some areas showcase the ruins, while others try to build as fast as they can before anyone discovers anything underground. You could dig practically anywhere and find an archeological site.

Here is a site beside a stretch of outdoor cafes:

These Roman Baths near the Grand Serail were discovered in 1968-69:

Finally, here is a facade from an area across the street called Saifi Village which is marketing itself as an arts district:

Click on any of the photos and they grow! magic!


Photos :: Mir Amin :: Beiteddine

Finally back from my fabulous trip to Lebanon! I got to play tour guide to friends who were visiting for the first time, and together we discovered cities I'd never been to before. We took a ton of pictures. So many pictures that I'll be posting them in separate posts.

I ended up attending two weddings instead of just one, and toured cities along the coast as far south as Tyre, to Tripoli in the north. We spent most of our time in Beirut and only went up to the mountains four times: first to visit grandma, next to the official marriage ceremony (on the Wednesday before the wedding), Saturday for the wedding, and then a few days later to visit family in the villages.

Driving around Beirut is really really really crazy and mountain driving totally wears me out. I lived there for 7 years, but only started driving in the last 3 years because I had no other choice. I lived by the American University in West Beirut, and my job was in Achrafieh in East Beirut. Getting around the city is really cheap but to cross from east to west (or the reverse) is really difficult since many taxi drivers refuse to go there, and others want to charge you more. East and West Beirut is divided by the infamous Green Line, which is now packed with the most popular bars and clubs and also were many people go to hang out at night. So many ironies.

One of the highlights of the trip was getting to ride with a friend in her convertible smart car. What an awesome car! Unfortunately, there are really no traffic rules there, and right-of-way is directly proportional to how large your car is and how fast you're moving. But what respect she lost in size she gained in sympathy: some drivers were scared to hit her tiny car so they would often let her go first.

Above are some photos of Mir Amin, a palace (and now hotel) in the Chouf mountains, along tbe same road as the Beiteddine presidential summer palace. This is where we went for lunch after my brother's official marriage ceremony, but traditionally the couple isn't "married" until the cake is cut on their wedding night.

Here are some photos of the Beiteddine palace taken during our last trip in December. In the summer this space gets transformed into a stage for the yearly Beiteddine festival.

I've got so many e.mails and posts to catch up on! It seems like years since I've blogged! My bloglines is going completely insane!